An Hour of Hope: The First Annual Hub of Hope Benefit Breakfast
Breakfast was served. Anticipation hovered in the air and the buzz of conversation filled the grand ballroom at The Lowes Hotel in Philadelphia last Monday morning. Hundreds of people gathered for a benefit breakfast celebrating the progress on a revolutionary project which brought together a public and private partnership, for a cause that will make Philadelphia a pioneer in the fight to end chronic street homelessness.
The crowd included some of the city’s most influential political and business leaders.
The purpose of this gathering: to celebrate an amazing and unparalleled initiative to respond to the crisis of homelessness in Center City Philadelphia.
For six winters, Project HOME has operated an innovative program: the Hub of Hope. This walk-in engagement center for Philadelphia’s homeless population has been housed in the Suburban Station concourse below Center City. It has served as a vital point of entry for almost 1,500 people, who received services and support to empower visitors to take steps to break the cycle of homelessness. With this record of success, SEPTA and the City of Philadelphia with Project HOME are joining together to open a permanent, year-round Hub of Hope.
Expanding from a humble storefront in Suburban Station, the newly expanded Hub will be an 11,000-square-foot underground engagement center, providing an array of critically needed services (for more information on the Hub program, read here). This first Annual Benefit breakfast, hosted by the Loews Hotel, brought together civic and business leaders from entities in the private and public sectors to share the vision of the Hub. Project HOME, SEPTA, and the City of Philadelphia with the support of Bank of America and other civic leaders represented a unified front in the fight to end chronic homelessness in Philadelphia. Distinguished guest speakers included: Scott Nassar, Managing Director, Loews Philadelphia Hotel; Pasquale Deon, Sr., Chairman, SEPTA; John S. Middleton, Managing Partner of the Philadelphia Phillies; James Dever, Philadelphia Market President for Bank of America; Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney; Elizabeth Hersh, Director of Office of Homeless Services for Philadelphia; David Simonetti, Senior Director of Operations, Mid-Atlantic Wawa; Jeffrey Knueppel, General Manager of SEPTA; Michelle Shepard, a Project HOME Outreach Response Worker; and Project HOME’s co-founder and Executive Director, Sister Mary Scullion.
The speakers echoed a sentiment of hope with one accord. Emphasizing the importance of strategic partnerships within the city and the impact those relationships would have on everyone involved.
In a demonstration of the Hub's impact, Project HOME staff person Michelle Shepherd spoke of what the Hub meant to her when she first came in as a guest. “It gives people a better perspective on life because they see that somebody really cares about them,” she said. “The Hub of Hope gives people the opportunity to see that people want to help.”
Thanks to the efforts of all the partners and guests gathered for this benefit, there will be many more like Shepherd: persons who reap the benefits of the Hub to break the cycle of homelessness. The breakfast at Loews Hotel was a sign of unity, hope, and resolve. As Sister Mary said, “Philadelphia has demonstrated a positive can-do spirit that responds to the seemingly daunting urban problem by working together on solutions not inhumane cosmetic fixes. This type of vision and leadership is what makes our city a truly great one.”